From Gujarat to the Red Sea: the connectivity of the ‘small island’ port of Suakin, Sudan, within the western Indian Ocean

Wes Forsythe, C Breen, Laurence Smith, Michael Mallinson, Jacke Phillips, Shadia Taha, Ali Mohamed Abdelrahman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This paper focuses on historical, ethnographic and archaeological evidence for the links between the Sudanese port of Suakin and South Asia, as part of the Red Sea/Indian Ocean trade, during the overall period later 13th to early 20thcenturyAD. The main locations on Suakin island town yielding relevant material are briefly described. The archaeological evidence indicates pottery comparable with examples of glazed and unglazed burnished wares from India. Consideration is given to the means of trade, particularly the relation between pilgrimage and trade. Interviews indicate the origins of the community of Indian traders at Suakin, in the later 19th century/early 20thcentury, and show the range of items traded, many of which are invisible archaeologically under the preservation conditions at the site. Continuities in the sea trade until the present day are noted. It is concluded that a combination of archaeological, historical and ethnographic evidence enables hypotheses as to the main routes and methods of trade to be put forward.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNetworked Spaces: The Spatiality of Networks in the Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean
EditorsCaroline Durand, Julie Marchand, Bérangère Redon, Pierre Schneider
Place of PublicationLyon
ISBN (Electronic)978-2-35668-078-5
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2022
EventRed Sea Conference IX - Lyon, France
Duration: 2 Jul 20195 Jul 2019

Publication series

ISSN (Electronic)2724‑8933


ConferenceRed Sea Conference IX


  • Red Sea, Horn of Africa, Indian Ocean, Antiquity, medieval period, network, trade, port, nomad, navigation, logistics, spatiality


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